The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here.
This week: 5 acres conserved, plus everything the Council didn’t get to at last week’s meeting. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.
- Snow Removal: A couple citizen petitions about snow removal will be sent to the Public Works Committe for further discussion. Nancy Jacobs requests “termination of the previous agreement and have the City plow, sand and salt Camelot Dr., Tristan Court and Merlin Court.” Scott Cossette wants the City to use its equipment “to clear sidewalks in front of private residences, especially along the more traveled walking streets.”
- HUD Regulations: Responding to a request originally made by Councilor Lukes, the City Manager has a report clarifying that organizations receiving HUD funding can engage in political activities, as long as they use non-HUD money for those activities.
- Vig’s Way/Sunderland Road Land Swap: The city will do a 3000 sq ft land swap with the Guzman family regarding land in the Vig’s Way/Sunderland Road area, just so it will be easier for everyone to make good use of their land.
- Fowler Brook Gorge Conservation Restriction: The city and the Greater Worcester Land Trust will be accepting the gift of a conservation restriction on a 5-acre area near Mill St called “Fowler Brook Gorge.”
- Privacy of Board and Commission Members: The city clarifies that board and commission appointees are considered city employees, and so their addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses are not considered public information.
- Massachusetts School Building Authority 2017 Statement of Interest Items: The Superintendant of Schools passes along a letter noting that the MSBA is interested in “accelerated repairs” of: Elm Park Community School Window Replacements; Lincoln Street School Window, Roof and Boiler Replacements; Rice Square School Window Replacement; Thorndyke Road School Window Replacement.
- Seven-Figure Finance Items: $2,015,640.00 will be transferred from Water Enterprise Retained Earnings, to Water O.M. – Reservoirs; a previously approved loan order for $9,316,000.00 will be upped to $10,945,101.00 “to properly fund the MSBA Worcester Public Schools Accelerated Repairs Program.”
- Rezoning 128 Chandler?: The Council will vote on whether to rezone part of 128 Chandler (Chandler & Piedmont) from General Residential to General Business. This has been a live issue for more than a year now.
- Old Items: Due to the hullabaloo over Councilor Lukes and Gaffney’s anti-sanctuary-cities items on last week’s agenda, several items were held to this week: regional transportation summit, grant money for Hadwen Park, trash from recycling bins blowing about, some sewer repairs, developer tax breaks, home businesses, Councilor Luke’s anti-sanctuary-cities items (Councilor Gaffney’s item was voted down), best practices on homelessness, traffic around Woodland St. School, surveillance cameras against dumping, dog park ordinance signage, etc etc. See last week’s writeup for more details.
Fowler Brook Gorge:
The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 6pm. The agenda is here. The agenda is huge but much of it is routine. Be sure to note the item about goose-chasing Canadian drones.
Note that if you want to vote in the Sept 9 Preliminary Election, you must register by August 19. You can register with this PDF form or just go to the Elections window on the second floor of City Hall.
- Physical Layout: Gadfly-of-gadflies Jo Hart has an item requesting that the City Manager “delineate the physical layout of the manager’s entire staff” so they will be easier for the public to find.
- Appointments: Anthony Pignataro has been appointed a Constable; Izaida Gonzalez to the Human Rights Commission; Thomas Cullinane, Theresa Eckstrom, Christopher Evans, and Ursula Hanus reappointed to the Elder Affairs Commission; Christopher Rodwill reappointed to the Memorial Auditorium Board of Trustees; Randolph Bloom, Robyn Conroy, Andrew Shveda, and Karl Bjork reappointed to the Historical Commission; and Nicholas Cuba reappointed to the Off Street Parking Board.
- More Appointments: The Council must vote to approve the reappointment of Jennifer Madson to the Advisory Board on the Status of Women; the reappointment of Peter McKone to the Conservation Commission.
- Mobile Food Truck Pilot Program: The Manager recommends an ordinance that would establish three Food Truck Friendly Zones, which would be active Fridays and Saturdays through November. These would be adjacent to the Common, Elm Park, and Institute Park. Food trucks have been controversial for years now, though not much seen since the last ordinances regulated many of them out of existence.
- HUD: There’s a report on the City’s paying a $3.4 million fine to the U.S. Department of Housing and Economic Development for not complying with HUD grant regulations.
- Keep Worcester Clean: The City’s KWC program has a report on efforts made to keep Worcester clean in May and June. May: 249 sites cleaned, 34 tons of trash removed, 10 citations issued. June: 203 sites cleaned, 35 tons of trash removed, 14 citations issued.
- Tasers: Last month a man went on a “rampage” in a Worcester market, was tased by police, and died. The Worcester Police Department has a report this week saying that they have 48 Tasers (model X26P), that every officer gets 8 hours of Taser training and is retrained 4 times a year, that officers have tased people 60 times since 2007, and have brandished Tasers without using them 36 times.
- Crime Stats: According to a report to the Council, our crime stats are pretty good, with the obvious exception of the surge in shootings this summer.
- Patch Pond Dam: The Council will be voting to accept a $1 million grant from the state to replace this dam.
- Openings on Boards and Commissions: There’s an item noting that there are lots of openings in City boards and commissions, including the Advisory Committee on the Status of Women, Citizen Advisory Council, Commission on Disability, Conservation Commission, Elder Affairs Commission, GAR Memorial Hall Board of Trustees, Historical Commission, Hope Cemetery Board, Memorial Auditorium Board of Trustees, Planning Board, Worcester Arts Council, and the Worcester Housing Authority. These are a great way to take your involvement in public life to the next level.
- Keeping Nonprofits and Churches Out of Residential Zones: The Council’s Committee on Rules and Legislative Affairs has an item asking the Manager for a report on “enacting legislation to regulate and restrict use by non-profit organizations for religious or educational purposes in residentially zoned districts.”
- Police Resources: Councilor Lukes has an item asking for the State police to get involved in our gang violence problem. The Mayor and the Chief have both come out against this idea; the State Police already meet regularly with Worcester law enforcement to collaborate on these kinds of things. There has been some back and forth in the media over this idea. We will be getting more police in both the short-term and long-term, however. I can’t figure out if there is anything about this on the Council agenda, but the Manager has approved keeping 18 “Summer Impact Program” officers on the street even after the summer, and increasing “the upcoming recruit class from 23 to 35.”
- Food: Councilors Gaffney, Lukes, and Rivera have an item asking the Worcester Public Schools to donate their excess food (that has not been served) to the St. John’s Food Pantry. This is one of those “Why isn’t this on the School Committee Agenda?” items. If you haven’t stopped by St. John’s Food for the Poor, it is a great spot.
- Day Shelter: Councilor Rivera has another item asking for an update on Worcester’s homelessness efforts and “specifically concerning the progress to initiate a day shelter plan.”
- More TIFs: Councilor Palmieri has an item asking for the City to be able to give tax breaks (TIFs) “to owners of small multi-family properties to allow them the benefit of enhancing their properties without the immediate burden of increased property taxes.”
- #GaryRosenIsBackBaby: Councilor Rosen has an item asking the City to use a goose-chasing “dive-bombing drone” to chase away our many Canada geese. He cites the GooseBuster used in Ottawa. I like the GooseBuster website. “I am the first and only company in Canada to be registered to chase geese using a remote controlled aircraft.”
- Merging Police and Fire: Councilor Lukes has an item asking the Manager to investigate merging the police and fire departments “into a single department of public safety.”
- Greenwood Street Landfill Solar Project: There’s a little paperwork item regarding this 5.6MW solar project. It’s still moving forward.
The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 6pm. The agenda is here. The agenda is huge and full of controversy, so this week I’m adding the bare minimum of context.
- Executive Session: There will be an Executive Session early on “to discuss pending litigation.” Either the councilors will leave the chamber or the audience will be asked to step out for a moment.
- Needles: Ron Madnick has a request that the city start a pilot program for needle exchange (in accord with M.G.L. Chapter 111, section 215). Councilor Gaffney has six items on the agenda asking the city for detailed reports on needle-related items like drug overdoses and the spread of Hepatitis C through dirty needles.
- Skate Parks: Tyler Kuhn has a request that the City Council create a Worcester Youth Park Skate Commission as part of getting some skate parks in the city.
- Drug Dogs: “Patricia Sullivan requests City Council request City Manager to request the Police Chief to reconsider his decision not to accept a donation of a narcotic specific K-9.”
- Street Sweeping: “Brittany Remillard requests the opportunity to speak before City Council regarding better ways to notify residents when street sweeping will take place.”
- Youth Violence: Bill Coleman has an item asking the City Manager to talk about how the city is working to reduce youth violence. (There have been a spate of shootings and murders this summer.) The Manager will indeed be speaking on this; his report is here. Councilor Gaffney has an item also asking for this information, as well as for “emergency funds” for the police to deal with this.
- PARCC: Bill Coleman requests there be a non-binding balance question on whether there should be a moratorium on PARCC testing. School Committee Member Tracy Novick has a short blog post explaining this item.
- Murals: A couple items that the Council will approve as part of the process of getting new murals at 104 Pleasant Street (The Raven) and 2 Southbridge Street.
- Crowdsourcing: The Manager has a report on Worcester + crowdsourcing. You can now offer your 2 cents on the city website. First issue: food trucks.
- Dog Parks: There are a ton of items on getting a legit dog part in Worcester.
- Tennis: The Committee on Youth, Parks, and Recreation wants a report on “the cost for making the tennis courts at Morgan Landing Park, Newton Square and Institute Park playable.”
- Mosaic: Mosaic Cultural Complex is an organization that has, among other things, sponsored meetings related to the #blacklivesmatter movement and the 5-minute civil disobedience in Kelley Square earlier this year. They’ve also received grants from the city, and there are allegations that they have not been properly organized as a non-profit, and questions about how they spent those grants. Councilors Rosen and Gaffney have an item asking the city to audit Mosaic. This T&G article [$] has just enough information to make me even more confused about Mosaic’s status.
- Rectangular Fields: Councilor Rosen has an item regarding getting more soccer fields (“rectangular fields”) in the city.
- Dumping at Donation Sites: Councilors Gaffney and Rosen have another joint item asking if the city can end the “proliferation of charity donations bins, many of which are magnets for illegal dumping of garbage and trash around them.”
- Tasers: Councilor Lukes has another item asking about tasers, the protocol for their use, and what sort of training is happening.
- City Councilors and Lobbying: I don’t know what this item from Councilor Lukes is about: “Request the City Council’s Standing Committee on Rules and Legislative Affairs develop a protocol and include this in the revised City Council rules regarding the appearance and advocacy by a member of the City Council on proposed legislation or regulations before a state or federal governmental body.”
- Drones: Councilor Lukes again has a drone item, this time asking the city about regulating “the use of drones in the proximity of the airport.” Councilor Toomey has an item asking for more clarification on drone regulation.
- Making Private Streets Public: On the agenda are Aroostook Street, Beaver Brook Parkway, Bergin Lane, High Ridge Road, Monmouth Avenue, Valley View Lane, Norton Street, and Botany Bay Road.
- Castle Park -> Institute Park: There is the usual litany of routine finance items. I wanted to include this one in the agenda preview because it is interesting: “That the sum of Two Hundred Thousand Dollars And No Cents ($200,000.00) from the Loan Order authorized by the City Council on June 10, 2014 and appropriated to Account #91C784J, Castle Park, to fund improvements associated with Castle Park, is hereby rescinded in its entirety; and be it further ordered: That the sum of Two Hundred Thousand Dollars and No Cents ($200,000.00) be appropriated to Account #91C784AE, Institute Park, to fund improvements associated with Institute Park.”
- Changes in Employee Contracts: Lots of items related to the latest multi-year agreements on city employee wages and benefits. For example: “Amend the Salary Ordinance of August 20, 1996 relative to members of DPW Clerks Bargaining Unit (Local 170, Teamsters).”
The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: the Council evaluates the City Manager. Presumably they will decide he is doing a great job. Some other items before the Council are noted below. This week at the Federal level, the US Supreme Court expressed some concern with Worcester’s 2013 anti-begging ordinances.
Also: There will be a prayer vigil for Charleston before the meeting at 6pm outside City Hall.
- Board and Commissions: Thomas Dillon will be appointed to the Zoning Board of Appeals.
- Private and Public Streets: The Committee on Public Works recommends the Council make Wescott St., from Paris Ave. to Scandinavia Ave. a public street.
- Common WWII Memorial: The Council will be approving improvements and enhancements to the World War II Memorial behind City Hall. Pictures below.
- Report on City TV Funds: This item was tabled last week—perhaps it will be discussed this week.
Continue reading Preview: City Council agenda (June 30)
The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: the capital budget. Specifics on the capital budget are at the bottom of this post.
The rest of the agenda:
- City TV Stations: The Auditor was asked for an analysis of the funds for the Public, Educational, and Government TV channels. He provides this report this week, including some details on how and why the Government Channel has $1,000,000 in reserves.
- Tax Breaks: There are some items regarding Tax Incentive Financing for the project building a giant industrial building at 150 Blackstone River Road in Quinsig Village. The T&G has more.
- Foreclosures: Some changes will be made to the city Ordinances Relative to Vacant and Foreclosing Properties.
- Boards and Commissions: Ariel Lim will be appointed to the Community Development Advisory Committee.
- Food Trucks: The City plans to make it easier to operate food trucks in Worcester. The T&G has more.
- Murals: The city is expected to approve 3 new spots for murals, the Raven (256 Pleasant St), 19 McKeon Road, and 50 Water St. The T&G has more.
- City Manager Evaluation: The Council will be evaluating City Manager Ed Augustus on June 30. This week, he has a 50-page report to the Council on what he’s done and how Worcester is doing.
The Capital Budget: First note that the capital budget is here and totals $76 million for FY16. The Council will actually vote it as a series of loan orders at the end of the agenda.
Capital budget highlights:
- Two new fire engines (replacing 9 and 15), totalling $930,000 (with half coming from non-municipal sources)
- funding to make water fountains at the DCU accessible ($9,600) and to replace the stage lift ($12,000) plus a new commercial popcorn popper ($12,000)
- multiple new dump trucks (ranging from a 5 ton truck for $170,000 to 1 ton for $55,000) for DPW, all with plows
- a new cell room wagon ($59,000) for WPD along with $30,000 in forensic unit equipment ($30,000) a universal film scanner ($14,000) and 7 marked ($275,000) and 5 unmarked ($170,000) cruisers
- an ADA compliant check out station for the library ($20,000) plus new sound systems for the Banx and Saxe rooms ($42,000)
- upgrading the internet platform ($135,000) and the city wifi ($45,000)
- a deck grinder (a big wood chipper) ($250,000), a catch basin cleaner ($210,000), and a compressor/vacuum truck ($125,000)
- $100,000 for new lab equipment for the water treatment plant
- 1st, 3rd, and 4th floor renovations for City Hall ($140,000)
- repaving the Senior Center parking lot ($225,000)
- $500,000 added to $1,000,000 in funding from elsewhere for the Wayfinding Initiative
- $1 million for abatement for the old Courthouse (plus $3 million from elsewhere)
- $45,000 to upgrade the entry way vestibule roof for Technical Services
- $140,000 for the WRA urban renewal plan
- $6.4 million in street resurfacing (of which $4 million from state funds)
- $3.2 million for downtown sidewalks
- funding to begin Nelson Place construction ($2.3 million plus $9.2 million from the state) and plan South High ($150,000 plus $600,000 from the state)
- $315,000 for technology upgrades for schools (leveraging $5.1 million in federal funds)
The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: traffic, needles, TIFs.
- Youth Voting: Bill Coleman (City Council candidate) has an item asking that the Council have a non-binding survey question on the ballot: “Should 17 year old American citizens be allowed to vote in local municipal elections? Yes or No.”
- #BlackLivesMatter: Coleman also asks the City to “consider dropping all charges against four demonstrators who obstructed traffic at Kelley Square as an olive branch to diffuse tensions in our community regarding race and public protest.”
- Green Hill Golf Course: Councilor Lukes has an item (which the Council will presumably approve) asking for a report on what it would take to lease the Green Hill golf course to a private management company.
- Evaluating the Clerk and Auditor: Councilor Lukes has an item (which the Council will presumably approve) asking that the Municipal Operations Committee have an annual evaluation of the City Clerk and City Auditor. (I am surprised this doesn’t already happen.)
- Keeping Trees Alive: Councilor Economou has an item (which the Council will presumably approve) asking if the City can do a better job watering public shade trees rather than having them die and then having to buy new ones.
- Scavenging Bottles: Councilor Russell has an item (which the Council will presumably approve) asking if the Council can create a new law to keep people from digging through curbside recycling bins looking for bottles etc.
- Traffic Enforcement: The Traffic and Parking Committee has asked for speeding surveillance or enforcement at Drummond Ave., Holden St. near Lansing Ave., at the corner of West Chester St. and Barrett Ave., on Olean St. between the hours of 6:00 A.M. to 9 A.M. and 4:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. weekdays, and for unregistered vehicles in the vicinity of Stockton St. from Vernon St. to Fairbanks St.
- Police and Elm Park Prep: Councilor Rivera requests “an enforcement sweep of the Elm Park Prep area.”
- Dirty Needles: Councilors Rosen and Gaffney ask the City Manager for 2 reports, one on drug use at the library and other public buildings, the other about whether needle disposal boxes in the library bathroom are working.
- Senior Citizen Tax Breaks: Councilor Bergman has an item asking the City include, in quarterly tax bill mailings, info about real estate tax credits available to those over 65.
- Dog Park: Councilor Palmieri has an item asking about turning park of Boynton Park into a dog park. (It’s currently a de facto dog park but not a legitimate one.)
- Tax Incentive Financing: Councilor Russell has an item asking for a new process around how TIF applications are processed.
- Retiree Benefit Report: There are several items regarding pensions and other benefits for retired city employees, including a detailed report.
- E-Cigs: The Manager has an item asking the Council to pass new anti-nicotine laws, including one requiring retailers to post signage warning customers “that nicotine refills are poison.”
The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: police, tasers, pensions, hot dog carts.
- Executive Session: The Council will close the meeting for awhile “for the purpose of discussing strategy with respect to collective bargaining.”
- Retiree Pensions and Other Benefits: Councilors Rushton and Economou have some items asking for reports regarding these.
- Tasers: Councilor Toomey has an item asking for the WPD to get tasers for all officers.
- Food Trucks: Councilors Rushton, Rivera, and Rosen have an item asking for a report on food truck regulations, with the intention of the Economic Development Committee revisiting this issue. Back in 2008 the City Council voted for new restrictions on food carts in the city, and their number went way down.
- More Police: The Council’s Public Safety Committee recommends that the full Council vote “in favor of hiring a police class of at least 20 for Fiscal Year 2016.”
The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: Civilian Police Review Board, boards and commissions, solar farm zoning, absentee landlords, police in the schools.
- Request to Make Camden Avenue Public: “Phuong-Tran-Vo request Camden Ave. from Indiana St. to Greenfield St. be made public.”
- Solar Zoning: Councilor Russell has an item requesting “Zoning restrictions for solar farms especially near Residential areas… this does not include accessory solar uses.” Specifically: “No – all residential zones”, and “SP – all BL, ML and BO zones” and “Yes – all other B and MG zones”.
- Boards and Commissions: A lot of people are being appointed to City Boards and Commissions. Shawna Curran and Ike McBride to the Human Rights Commission; Samantha Fiakofi to the Worcester Arts Council; Devon Kurtz to the Historical Commission; and J. Martin Shanahan to the Citizens Advisory Council. Good job everybody.
- Newbury Street Community Garden: The City will “execute a lease for the 22 Newbury Street Property for community gardening purposes.”
- City Diversity Plan: The City Manager will present a “plan to implement improved strategies and policies that better serve and represent our diverse community.” Specifically, the plan includes sections on “Creating a more Diverse and Culturally Competent Workforce, Improving Public Safety Relations with the Community, Providing Opportunities for Young People Expanding Efforts to Educate and Engage the Public on the Electoral Process, and Enhancing Economic Development Opportunities.”
- Civilian Police Review Boards: Councilor Lukes has a couple items asking about “the feasibility of establishing an independent Civilian Police Review Board.”
- Absentee Landlords: Councilor Rivera has an item asking “that the owner’s name and contact telephone number be conspicuously posted to the front of non-owner occupied multi-family properties.”
- Justice Department Questions: The City and the US Justice Department’s Community Relations Service are planning a discussion series on race in the city. Councilor Lukes has an item asking for a bunch of details on this.
- Police in the Schools: Councilors Bergman and Russell have an item asking about getting full-time police officers and metal detectors in all our high schools. I am not sure why this is a City Council item since the School Committee is in charge of the schools.
The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday, January 20. The agenda is here. I’ve been on the road the last couple weeks. Did I miss anything?
This week: a slim agenda.
- Update on Council rule changes: Nothing will be decided yet. Since there is so much detail, we have a separate post on this.
- Boards and Commissions: Aaron Richman reappointed to the Human Rights Commission; Jake Messier reappointed to the Trust Funds Commission; Matthew Yalouris appointed to the Community Development Advisory Committee; Douglas Hannam reappointed to the Citizen’s Advisory Council.
- Tax Breaks: We’re giving companies tax breaks relating to a rest home project at 102 Randolf Road. There have been delays; the Council will be voting to change the agreement to give them 2 more years to get things done.
- Snow Parking: At the Council’s request, when the parking ban is declared due to snow, “the Pearl Elm, Federal Plaza, Union Station, and Major Taylor Garages will each be available for overnight parking. The current overnight rate from 5:00 pm-5:00 am is currently Six Dollars $6.00 at each of these locations.”
- New Nelson Place School: The Council will be voting approval of the financing of a new $57 million Nelson Place School to open near Indian Lake in 2017.
- 2015 Election Schedule: The new schedule is up. Want to run for City Council or School Committee? Pick up your nomination papers on March 3. Return your sheets of signatures by May 19 at 5:00pm.
- New Landfill for Basin Cleanings and Street Sweepings: In recent years, the City has put “basin cleanings and street sweepings” into the Greenwood Street Landfill at no cost. Now that it’s full, the Council will be voting to enter a 5 year contract with the Southbridge Recycling and Disposal Park to dump this stuff there for $11/ton.
- Million-Dollar Properties: As part of their effort to figure out how to tax non-profits, the Council has asked for a list of the 1,066 properties in the city worth more than a million dollars. It’s an interesting list. There are 9 worth more than a hundred million dollars. UMass and Holy Cross are at the top of that list.
- Zoning Changes: One change that I don’t understand but like the sound of is the establishment of a Commercial Corridors Overlay District in the area shown below, where things will be tweaked “to encourage compact, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly redevelopment of the City’s downtown and urban corridors.”
Here’s a PDF outlining proposed changes in how the City Council will operate.
A lot of this is just cleaning things up. The discussion of these changes has been happening for many months now, and will go on for some time to come.
Here are a few things I noticed that go beyond cleanup.
- When the Council takes up an issue that’s not on the meeting agenda, they will first have to explain the emergency situation that’s forcing them to do so.
- Limits total public comment at a Council meeting to 30 minutes. (The Council can always suspend this rule and let people talk longer.)
- Reiterates that people at meetings should be silent, and that if you’re still talking after being warned, the Council can call the cops on you.
- Formalizes that the Mayor can temporarily appoint Councilors to vacant committee spots. This is how it’s already done.
- Currently, committees are supposed to make a decision on items within 60 days, then report back to the Council. There are a lot of old items drifting around. The new rule says that after 60 days, if the committee hasn’t dealt with the item, it goes back to the Council. Also, the Clerk will give the committees lists of their “dormant items,” and every 2 years there will be a big housecleaning—either a Councilor has to ask to keep an item alive, or it will automatically be “filed.” (That is, go away.
- The new rules several times call speaking before the Council a “privilege,” whereas the old rules don’t. Not sure if this means anything.
Rules geeks, feel free to post a comment with your impressions.